Leaders of the power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland have signalled different approaches to the scheduled ending of tougher Covid-19 restrictions on 13 November.

It comes as the Department of Health reported eight more Covid-related deaths, taking the death toll to 716.

There were also 685 new cases reported, from tests on 2,972 individuals.

There are 361 confirmed Covid-19 patients in hospital, with 48 of these being treated in intensive care units.

The restrictions introduced earlier this month are due to be lifted more than two weeks before Level 5 measures are due to end in the Republic.

Based on relative population sizes, the rates of infection, deaths and hospitalisations are all much higher north of the border.

But restrictions are less severe, with non-essential remaining open in Northern Ireland.

There was disagreement between Northern Ireland's two largest parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, on the introduction of the current restrictions.

Sinn Féin is known to have favoured a six-week timescale, but the Stormont Executive reached agreement on a four-week period.

First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster last night made it clear that her position is that the restrictions will end on 13 November.

In a tweet, she stated that "current restrictions will end on 13 November as planned", adding that "we must adapt to coexist with the virus"

However, Deputy First minister and Sinn Féin's leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill was non-committal.

In a tweet she said "current restrictions will be reviewed by 13th November", and that the "focus must be following guidelines and minimising spread of this virus."

Ms O'Neill has said she supports the need for a planned exit from restrictions to avoid a cycle of lockdowns, but has also made it clear that all options must remain on the table.


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Finance is a big factor. The Stormont executive was only able to sign off on the current four weeks of tougher restrictions after the UK government committed funding to compensate local businesses and employees.

On Friday, health minister Robin Swann warned that expectations of a return to any normality in Northern Ireland after four weeks of tightened restrictions are "entirely misplaced".

He also warned of the potential danger of "premature relaxation of all restrictions".

Schools in Northern Ireland will reopen tomorrow after an extended two-week Halloween break, with tougher rules on the wearing of face coverings.